In an opinion column published in the Irish Times, William Binchy, lawyer and former Law Professor at Trinity College, Dublin (1992-2012), has reacted to the pressure generated by the UN in order to get abortion legalised in Ireland (Gènéthique press review on July 16, 2014).
Ireland is reflecting on modifying its Constitution in order to “comply” with international obligations in terms of human rights. The author finds the argument weak. On the one hand because human rights, as a philosophical and ethical system, is the recognition of “equal value and equal dignity intrinsic to all human beings”, such that “human rights exist not because laws in Dublin or New York grant them to us but because of our humanity”. On the other hand, because, as former Human Rights Commissioner in Ireland from 2001 to 2011 and to ensure representation when drawing up the United Nations Convention relating to the rights of disabled people, he believes he has a sound knowledge of the way in which international treaties emerge. He mentions the eminently political aspect. Referring to other conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), he highlights one permanent characteristic in particular: the compilation of sufficiently vague articles with a broad scope for interpretation. Thus article 2 of the ECHR on “right to life” does not confirm that it is referring to unborn babies. Therefore, as many Member States as possible can sign this agreement, regardless of their abortion legislation.
He recognises the ability of international agreements to “move mountains” when they focus on the basic principle of “equal value and equal dignity intrinsic to all human beings”. In all honesty, in terms of current debates on opportunities to change the Irish Constitution, which expressly include equal rights including those of unborn babies, William Binchy would like us to recognise that the afore-mentioned basic principle has been “compromised by political calculations”.